Ana discusses her early life, her arranged interfaith marriage to a Muslim man, and how she was deprived of her dreams of becoming a teacher; living a life of hardships instead.
Born in 1967, Ana recalls her early life growing up in Puerto City in the Philippines. Her mother worked as a vendor in the market while her father was a traditional healer and herbalist. Many came to her father to tend to their ailments as they were unable to afford allopathic medical care. Ana shares that although they wanted a son, they only had five daughters, but still raised her and her sisters responsibly. However, she notes that her father was very strict in ensuring that his daughters did not display any masculine behaviors.
She began her elementary education in Surigao while living with her brother, but moved back to Puerto in third grade after her father’s death. While her mother was able to fund her elementary education, Ana had to work and put herself through high school. She worked various jobs, ranging from the restaurant industry, to the market, and even in hospitals. Yet, it was difficult to finance her studies; and as a result, Ana chose to discontinue her education in her third year of high school. Lacking a high school diploma, the many jobs she worked were only just able to provide for her meals.
Discussing her personal life, Ana laments how she had a long-term relationship with her boyfriend from high school, which came to an end when he impregnated another girl. Ana then moved to Zamboanga City to live with her sister, who had married a Muslim man, despite her Christian faith. While this was not a common practice, Ana’s sister arranged a similar marriage for her to a Samal Muslim man. However, this was not conducted in a church or mosque according to established Christian or Islamic traditions, but was a small ritual conducted at home with a few guests. It would not have been considered legitimate by the Christian community. Unfortunately, her husband Andy was an alcoholic and promiscuous; and they could not afford their own home. They lived with Ana’s sister for a time before moving back to Puerto. Ana reflects that her life was difficult and left many of her dreams unfulfilled, but remains driven to work hard and create a comfortable life for herself.
Interviewee: Ana, born 1967
Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya Interpreter: Marjorie TsuchiyaWriter: Dominique Jonietz O. Lucagbo
Date: August 29, 2019
My name is Ana, 52 years old. I was born on August 6, 1967 in Agusan, Tin-ao. I graduated primary school in Puerto Elementary School and reached just up until 3rd year high school in Bugo City High School. My mother was a market vendor in Puerto’s market, she sells vegetables and fruits purchased from the farm and sell it in the market from 5am to 6pm. My father then was also a market vendor together with my mother, but most of the time he is an herbalist or sometimes called folk healer or “albularyo” in our term. An “albularyo” is a witch doctor who heals people using herbs and traditional practices such as massage and the like. My father’s patients are usually just his neighbours who have trouble affording legitimate medical services, or those who are very traditional and/or superstitious. Many would call my father to heal their sickness and diseases, because aside from the ability of my father to heal, they also prefer this because it was a cheaper alternative to medical doctors. This was their livelihood until they died.
I grew up here in Puerto and just had a year vacation in Negros Occidental. Then I temporarily lived in my brother’s house in Surigao and studied 1st Grade and 2nd Grade there but went back to Puerto again when my father died. I was sad when he died because despite his strictness, he was a responsible father to me and only wanted what’s good for me. I remembered the times when I was still a child, my father would scold me whenever I acted, talked or moved like a boy. My parents had 5 children who are all girls and my father, despite of really wanting a son, didn’t want his daughter to be a lesbian. Well, luckily for him, I grew up liking a boy and even had a boyfriend for 5 years but that’s another story to tell. After my father died, we went back to Puerto and I continued studying financed by my mother still as a market vendor. But due to my mother’s age, she had to go to Surigao in my brother’s house and my brother took care of her. I had no one to finance my studies and I was already in 2nd year high school. I tried to be a working student in Bicmar Company, a company producing plywood. But I quit my job not too long after, because I was unable to do my studies and work at the same time. So at 3rd year high school I stopped studying and just worked as a dishwasher and as a helper of a market vendor. I had lots of work in my hand just to be able to buy food for myself. I also worked as a waitress in a “karinderya” or a food chain, and even signed up as a watcher on strangers who wanted someone to accompany their patient in the hospital. I did everything I could and it was hard having no high school diploma. But even through all of this, I was able to find someone to be with. I had a boyfriend who I met from my high school. We even reached 5 years together but sadly our relationship still ended because he had impregnated another woman. I was heartbroken and mad, and so I went to my sister in Zamboanga City where she lived there with her Muslim husband, despite the fact that we were Christians. Her marriage was arranged by my mother before she died.
It was not common for Christian girls to be married to a Muslim. But in my case, my sister was able to arrange a fixed marriage with my husband Andy. He belonged to Moro an ethno-linguistic group which is called Samal. Our marriage was not legal if seen in the Christian’s perspective. There was no wedding that happened in a church or in their mosque instead we did a ritual in their house with few guests as our witness. Married life with Andy was no fun at all. We don’t own a property of our own to live and just lived with my sister’s house in Zamboanga but soon moved back again to Puerto. My husband was of no use because he was irresponsible and just drinks alcohol. He also had many girls and just sells sacks of sand used in making cement that they dig.
So far I learned that life really isn’t fair. And my life is constantly bombarded with unfortunate events that made it hard for me to get a better living, but I know that whining won’t change it so I know that I have to work hard to at least be able to live a comfortable life.
Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya
How does Ana and her sister’s marriages to Muslim men challenge the Philippine state’s official narrative of the ethnoreligious conflict in Mindanao during the Cold War?
What does the unorthodox practice through which Ana’s marriage was conducted suggest about the nature of culture and religion in the Cold War Philippines? What are the implications of this on how the Philippines’ Cold War should be understood?